By Natalie Baliker
Shopping for books is an experience almost as satisfying as sitting down to read them. I tend to visit at least one bookstore every place I visit, but I’ve come to notice that no two are alike. No, we’re not discussing Barnes & Noble, where every store is a near-perfect copy. Oh no, we’re talking about hole-in-the-wall, “how did you find that place,” local bookstores. Cats are preferred.
Landmark Shops (aka photo ops)
Right next to the Notre-Dame Cathedral (still a landmark despite the fire), Shakespeare and Company is located right in the middle of the city, and close to many other locations you might be visiting while you explore Paris. And the cherry on top is the cafe right next door … unless you arrive after closing, like I did.
And now for a little history! The building itself was originally a monastery, constructed in the 17th century. This English-language bookstore was founded by an American, George Whitman, in 1951. Originally called Le Mistral, Whitman changed the name in 1964, on the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birthday. It was also in honor of a fellow bookseller, Sylvia Beach, who founded the original Shakespeare and Company in 1919. Check out the bookstore’s website if you’d like to learn more about the history of the store and George Whitman.
To find these kinds of bookstores, the internet is your friend. Just beware that these popular locations are going to have some of the longest lines. Shakespeare and Company can get pretty busy during the day, especially in tourist season. But that’s because it’s more than just a shop, it’s arguably one of the most famous bookstores in the world!
Shakespeare and Company is located at 37 Rue de la Bûcherie in Paris, France.
The Hidden Gems
Don’t limit yourself to the bookstores that pop up on your internet searches – some of my favorite destinations have been happy accidents. Once upon a time, on a trip to who-knows-where, I stopped at a little restaurant with my friends for lunch. But when we walked in, there were books everywhere. It turns out, we had stumbled across a family restaurant that had a long-standing tradition of giving away books. Three free books with your meal! And if that’s not enough, the food was really good as well. Had we gone in search of the best rated diner, we might have missed it, and the opportunity to expand my library. This kind of hidden gem is the reason I love to explore, whether it’s an exotic location, or just down the street. Who knows, maybe your hometown has a few surprises tucked away.
The Traveler Restaurant is located at 1257 Buckley Hwy in Union, CT.
These are some of the best places to acquire books, and also tea, coffee, pastries and a plethora of other goodies. Why? Because the connected cafe gives you a reason to go back on a regular basis and subsequently spend all of your money. Or if you’re like me, it’s an opportunity to torture myself with books I can’t justify buying, like a thirty dollar monster on the art of French desserts.
While in Savannah, Georgia, I stopped by The Tea Room, right on Madison Square. While I did find an incredible selection of teas and blends, I was pleasantly surprised to find a connected bookstore. Customers are free to wander from one side to the other, sipping drinks while they browse the shelves and pet the cats sleeping in odd places throughout the shop. Or perhaps one might sit in the tea room and read a recent purchase. This was one of my favorite literary stops, as my love of tea and coffee is almost as great as my love of books.
As for tea recommendations, take a look at their Tea for Ruby and Holy Grail Herbal Chai (especially if you’re a fan of Monty Python). You can order loose and bagged tea, as well as all kinds of teaware from their website.
What are some of your favorite bookstores? Comment below to share your most memorable destinations!
Natalie Baliker is the Long River Review design center liaison and a fiction panel reader. She can be reached at email@example.com.